My Dear Young Women Everywhere,
If your boss, professor, father’s friend, Bill Cosby, Bill Clinton, the guy selling you Kombucha at the groovy corner mart, or The President of the United States has hit on you and you gave in, I have one message for you:
Knock that shit off right now.
You’re not the asshole. The older, married, preying on a naive young person fella….that’s the asshole.
Actually…I have a lot more to say so let me explain in detail why this entire ordeal fills me with anger. As a culture, we are hell bent on judging others, particularly a woman who was in her early 20s at the time and caved into an affair with the President. She is so scarred, even now, that she carefully watches her words, still carries intense shame, and if one reads the above article is genuinely remorseful that she had an affair with President Bill Clinton.
Gee whiz…he looks pretty ashamed and embarrassed too. Bless his heart….
Take a moment and let that sink in…The President of the United States….
Not a college professor or the moron boss at your first job. The man with the most powerful title on the planet. But no, you keep judging what a 22 year old girl did in 1998.
And to be clear, I’m sure if we dug into most people’s sex lives you would find a myriad of mistakes, but here we are, 20 plus years later still talking about this woman’s poor judgement.
And you wanna know something? I made a poor “judgement” too. When I was 19 I wanted to be an actress and worked at the Hippodrome (a professional theater in Florida) as a dresser and sincerely looked up to the two men in the play I was working on. They were both in their 40s, married, one was a college professor. I was thrilled to be their friend. Every night I’d stand backstage, they’d run into their costumes, and and then then go back on stage. It was wonderful. I was saving money to move to Chicago, and getting some great theater experience.
One night, one of the men started to grab me, and pull me close (right before he went on stage) bit my neck, and told me how much he “wanted me.” It was overwhelming. I looked up to him greatly. He did comedy, he was supportive of me for a year beforehand, and I didn’t know what to think. I never thought of him that way, but here I was, 19, confused, and greatly in need of an older male mentor. My own father was unable to show me any sort of love or interest, and quite frankly I was lost in many ways. I sincerely looked up to this person, and part of me was thrilled he showed me attention, even though I knew it was wrong…and he was married.
I am now just a little shy of his age when he hit on me, and although I don’t believe in “judging” others (I think it’s a poor use of time) I know that if I was working with a 19 year old boy, the age of many of my friend’s sons, I would NEVER think to approach them, or hit on them, or do anything remotely sexual. It’s never okay to destroy a young person’s trust, which is what happened to me.
I’d like to say I said no, but that would be a lie. We didn’t have sex, but it was close, and I made the mistake of telling a friend who told people at the theater. Other actors, also in the 40s, ostracized me and it was business as usual with the middle age man who I thought was a mentor. I was being judged and they were all laughing, hanging out and ignoring me. Me, a 19 year old….
That was the first time it hit me that age does not necessarily bring wisdom. I had acted at the Hippodrome since I was a kid, and in one night, it was ruined. Yes, my judgment was poor, no doubt, most 19 year olds do have poor judgment, but the fact that that actor is still in plays there I have to admit makes me a little sick. I can’t understand that, and never will.
I felt ashamed. And stupid. And unable to stick up for myself. I felt that the world had betrayed me and somehow it was all my fault.
Like Bill Clinton, it seems that the shame rolled off this actor and stuck to me. And the worst thing is every time I think of that night I wish I would have said no. I wish I had been raised to value myself, that one of my parents would have warned me about men like that, but I was naive and stupid in so many ways.
You may say that my story is different from Monica Lewinsky’s but I think the feelings attached are deeply similar.
Why am I bothering to post this? Because I’m not ashamed anymore. I’m angry. I’m angry that in 2016 we are still talking bout her mistakes and not his. I’m angry that the conversation isn’t how to give young people the voice and the strength to speak up and say no. I’m angry because as with rape, we put the victim through so much and protect the aggressor. And no, this was not rape. That is not what I mean. I mean that we tend to let the aggressor off in a wide spectrum of situations more easily than the weaker, more vulnerable party.
Here’s how the conversation should have gone with Bill and Monica:
Monica: I have a crush on you!
Bill: That’s sweet dear. I’m married, but tell me about your career goals, maybe I can help you reach them.
See? A mentor. And to be certain, a mentor is not an older man who thinks, “How can I stick my dick in this girl” I know that’s shocking, but it’s true. Really. I looked it up.
And remember, before you judge someone, don’t. You have no idea what they’ve been through. You have no idea where they are in their journey in life. You have no idea if they came from an abusive home or if what you consider a “low point” is a point they have had to fight to get to. So save the judgment for people who go out and kill lions or actively participate in the KKK…or wear Crocs? How about that?
OK, forget the Crocs thing…maybe…
Be a real mentor. Not another creep who just wants to get in a younger person’s pants. It’s our job as older people to help younger people find their way, not to try and take away another piece of their trust.
The world will do that in spades….